by Albor Ruiz, columnist, New York Daily News, March 4, 2007
Chalk another one up to Washington's tireless efforts to "usher democracy" into Cuba: Don Porter, president of the International Softball Federation, was denied a permit to travel to the Caribbean island by the U.S., according to Around the Rings, the online Olympics newspaper.
Porter was invited to attend last month's Hall of Fame ceremony on the island, the publication said.
"I'd like to know the reason," Porter told the newspaper. He also said that rejecting the application of a sports leader to travel to Cuba could hurt the efforts of the U.S. Olympic Committee "to overcome the loss of influence that we have experienced internationally."
But the democratizing zeal of the Bush administration does not stop at denying a permit to a sports figure. U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutiérrez, a Cuban-American, has been busy lately making it absolutely clear that, when it comes to Cuba, the Bush administration is prepared to stick to its guns, even after almost 50 years of failure.
"The embargo is not the problem or the solution," Gutiérrez, who co-chairs, with Secretary of State Rice, President Bush's Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, said at a press conference. "The problem is the repressive Communist system. The solution is to change the system."
Gutiérrez also said that it would be a "great disservice" for the Cuban people if U.S. policy toward Cuba was changed.
But Sarah Stephens, the well-informed executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, disagreed.
"The real disservice to the Cuban people is America's commitment to a policy that has failed to achieve its goals for 46 years," Stephens said. "A policy that disserves the American people by costing them jobs, profits, their right to travel, and their constitutional rights to visit Cuba and meet with Cubans on their island and in their homes."
Not to mention that it is a policy that for 46 years has punished the people it purports to help by making their life harsher and even more difficult for Cuban families on both sides of the Florida Strait to keep in contact with and to help each other.
The Commerce secretary is obviously confused, but not as much as when, on Oct. 25 of last year, during a visit to the Daily News Editorial Board, he said the embargo helped Castro.
When asked why the insistence on "staying the course" with a policy that had failed so dismally for so long, Gutiérrez said that every time there is an opportunity to improve relations, Castro does something to shoot it down.
"The embargo gives Castro an excuse for his failures," Gutiérrez said. "In reality, he doesn't want it lifted."
In other words, Castro loves the embargo. But if that is the case, and the White House wants to get rid of the ailing Cuban leader and his government, shouldn't the embargo be lifted ASAP?
It doesn't make any sense, does it? But because it is all in the name of "ushering democracy into Cuba," every absurdity and contradiction in the book has somehow become admissible.
At present, legislation to restore Americans' right to travel to Cuba is making its way through the House and the Senate. This week Sen. Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), introduced the Freedom to Travel Act, co-sponsored by a long bipartisan list of senators. A similar bill was introduced on Jan. 24 in the House by Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and is still adding sponsors from both parties.
Passing these bills would, after 46 years, restore a very much needed measure of rationality to U.S. relations with Cuba.